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DARRON GIBSON can still play an influential part in Everton FC’s season despite being hampered by an ongoing injury, says David Moyes.
The Republic of Ireland international midfielder is nursing a thigh complaint which requires surgery in the summer, but is able to soldier on until May.
And although the problem – which has already caused him to miss 17 games so far this season – is limiting his ability to shine, Moyes still believes the Manchester United man has plenty to offer.
He said: “I think we are in control of Gibson but there is a danger. We thought he might have needed an operation earlier in the year but the medical staff have managed it well. We think we can get away with it just now, but he is going to need it sometime.
“It could come at any time. I think he can offer more but maybe it is just the injury holding him back a bit.
“I don’t question his character because he had come from a club that instils that in you. We are not going to let him roll over so we can tickle his belly.
“He is going to have to get up and get on with it and he has done that to be fair to him.
“The injury has tempered him from shooting and taking corners. That is a big part of his game and at times I have considered not using him but he has done ok. He can get better and I keep trying to prod at him.”
Moyes said earlier in the season that he felt he had to ‘crack the whip’ more with the former Manchester United man, but he has been satisfied with his response so far.
“I meant mentally prod at him to get a bit more devilment in him in the things that he does,” he added. “But I can’t prod at him too much while he is carrying this injury. He has a wee bit of calcification at the top of his thigh.”
Tim Howard is the biggest injury worry for Everton today - with a back problem meaning Jan Mucha could be in line for his Premier League debut against Reading.
PATCHED-UP, battered, but ready for action - it’s so often the Everton FC way under David Moyes.
From Lee Carsley to Alan Stubbs, Tim Cahill to Leighton Baines, his players have been willing to put their bruised bodies on the line and bear the brunt of life at an ambitious club with limited personnel.
So often Moyes has been able to call upon his key men despite them nursing injuries which would have had other Premier League prima donnas clinging to the treatment table.
This season has been no different, with Leighton Baines still managing to turn in a string of inspirational performances despite an ongoing ankle complaint, and ahead of today’s clash with Reading Moyes will once again ask key men to grin and bear it.
Darron Gibson needs surgery on his persistent thigh problem, but will anchor the midfield for the second time in a week, and Moyes is grateful for the plucky perseverance of his men at a time in the season when he needs them to stand tall.
“Bainesy has played a lot of the season with an ankle injury but that is how it is when you come here,” says the Scot.
“We haven't got a big squad and you have to be able to do a couple of jobs.
“In a way, it breeds a spirit among the players. I don't let them roll about on the treatment table too long, they are out and about but sometimes it can catch you out.”
Moyes has perhaps reluctantly had to field his strongest teams in both the FA Cup and Premier League, leaving his depleted resources severely stretched - but admits that when he tried to rotate it back-fired on him.
“In every game you are looking to play your best players and if you pick up injuries then so be it, you bring in someone else after that,” he says.
“We have changed it a bit here and there but the one time that we did change it, we got knocked out of the cup by Leeds United.”
Moyes hopes that enthusiasm to tough it out and become a trusted performer swiftly rubs off on Kevin Mirallas, a player with the ability to revive his side’s attacking fortunes in the season’s run-in.
Summer signing Mirallas was a 20-goal top scorer for Greek outfit Olympiakos last season but netted what was just his fifth Everton goal against Oldham in their FA Cup fifth round replay on Tuesday.
Of those, only one has come in the Premier League, although the winger has been hampered by a frustrating hamstring concern.
Moyes last week called for the 25-year-old to rediscover his best form and hopes Tuesday's strike signifies the beginning of a fruitful end to the 2012/13 campaign.
“Hopefully it will give him a little bit of confidence,” he says.
“He's not really got himself back to the fitness level we'd have hoped, so it was good to get him a bit longer in the game (on Tuesday).
“We need him to score goals. We brought him here to score goals and create goals and we've been missing that a little bit, so hopefully he can keep it up now and start getting a few more.
“His first two or three games back were a gentle introduction and we hope he kicks on now after the goal as he looked a bit sharper in his general play the other night.
“He was a big goalscorer in Greece.
“A lot of our players have settled in quickly - Jelavic did incredibly quickly - and although Kevin started the season well I think he is still coming to terms with the Premier League.
“I am hoping the last 10 or 12 games he can help us as it is his job to score goals with Jelavic, Victor Anichebe, everyone.”
Tony Hibbert is another hardy soul who has routinely played through the pain barrier, but unfortunately his latest problem is proving more problematic.
And Moyes admits his veteran right-back could now miss the remainder of the season.
Moyes won’t rule out the 32-year-old appearing again this term but confessed an extended absence remains a distinct possibility.
Hibbert has been missing for the Blues since undergoing calf surgery in December.
Initially it was thought he would be back within two to three months but that now looks an optimistic target.
“I’m not sure if we will (see Tony this season),” says Moyes. “He might be back before the end with a bit of luck.”
The Blues boss also revealed Marouane Fellaini, Tim Howard and Victor Anichebe will need late fitness checks ahead of Saturday’s visit of Reading, but he expects the influential Belgian talisman to make it.
“Marouane has a chance to be fit,” he says. “But I have a doubt about Tim after he suffered a knock in midweek so I will assess that one.”
Howard will no doubt do everything to recover from the painful back problem he suffered during Oldham’s aerial bombardment on Tuesday, but should he fail to feature against the Berkshire side, he will miss out on breaking Neville Southall’s consecutive league appearances record by just three games.
The former Manchester United keeper has so far played in 210 successive Premier League matches for the Blues.
IT was a relief to see Everton back to winning ways as they secured their passage to the FA Cup quarter finals at Goodison Park on Tuesday.
There has been a bit of negativity around the club of late, so it was important to remind everyone that we are still in contention for silverware this season, which is more than can be said for a fair few clubs in the Premier League.
The quarter-final with Wigan next weekend represents a great chance to secure another visit to the new Wembley, and another great day out for supporters. If that isn’t cause for optimism, then I don’t know what is?
Of course there is more to it than that, and fans have every right to worry about the future of the club, the manager and the squad. But in the meantime, their support could be vital.
I’ve seen a fair bit of Wigan this season, and they’re a decent side when they click. They have pace, they can pass, and they can create chances. It will need one of those big Goodison atmospheres to give David Moyes and his side every chance of securing that last four place.
And with one of Millwall or Blackburn guaranteed a place in the semis, then there is a decent chance of a winnable semi final tie too. They say don’t look too far ahead, but there’s no reason not to dream.
First of all, though, is the small matter of sorting out our league form. Our defeat to Reading earlier in the season defied belief, so revenge will be on the cards this weekend I hope.
It would be understandable if David and his squad subconsciously allowed their minds to wander to next week, but in all honesty this side should have enough to maintain their progress on both fronts.
The support of the Goodison crowd should help massively.
David Moyes refuses to accept Everton must sacrifice their European dream for FA Cup glory.
Even though the club’s chances of clinching the fourth Champions League spot are rapidly diminishing, Moyes said: “I hope we can do well in both.
“I don’t think you can ever prioritise one over the other. If we did, we’d be resting players in the Premier League for the cup.
“I see other managers do that, and I’ve done it myself, and you get criticised for it.
“I think all you can ever do is take one game at a time and move on.”
Everton are FA Cup quarter-finalists but have taken just one point from their last three league games ahead of today’s visit by Reading.
The Goodison Park boss added: “We don’t have European games. We’ve not got a barrel-load of midweek fixtures so I see no reason why we shouldn’t treat every game on its merits.
“Of course, we have to worry about the size of our squad, but I can’t really change that.”
“I still think we’ve an outside chance of finishing in a European spot, whether that be the Europa League or Champions League. While we’ve got that, we’ll have to keep driving on in the league games.”
Meanwhile Hope Akpan believes he has toughened up since leaving Everton and roughing it in the lower leagues.
The Reading midfielder will make his first return to Goodison Park today following his £350,000 switch from Crawley Town in January.
And Akpan, who grew up as a Liverpool fan, is hoping to show David Moyes’ side what they are missing.
The 21-year-old said: “It was hard leaving, I had been there for 10 years and it was all I knew as a kid growing up. I think it was for the better and it taught me a lot in the lower leagues, showing me the ugly side of the game, which I think I needed.
“A lot of young players who stay around the big clubs don’t get that. I think I’m now a stronger player and person. With that knock-back, my attitude and the way I train has improved 10-fold.
“My ambition at the beginning of the season was to get promoted with Crawley Town or to be playing in the Championship come January or at the end of the season. It was a little bit of a shock that the Premier
League came calling so soon, but I’m taking it in my stride.
“My dad is a Liverpool supporter, but I’m staying clear of that subject. I had a trial at Liverpool (the following week after the one at Everton) and I didn’t end up going in the end. My dad was a bit disappointed, but he’s proud of me and has always been supportive to me.”
Royals will be without banned striker Pavel Pogrebnyak as well as the injured Jason Roberts (hip).
McDermott could bring in Adam Le Fondre to partner Noel Hunt up front if he reverts to a 4-4-2 formation.
But in the middle of the park, he is more than happy with his options after snapping up Akpan from Crawley for just £350,000.
He added: “It’s a good story. I spoke to David Moyes (before signing Akpan), we had a good chat about Hope and he thought he had potential.
Hope only played once for them, couldn’t break into their team and had to go away and play. You have to give him credit for that.
“He’s 6ft 1ins he can run, jump, pass and score - there’s not much more you need as a midfielder.”
David Moyes is backing Nikica Jelavic to end his goalscoring drought for Everton.
Jelavic has gone nine games without a goal for Everton and has only scored once since the start of December.
The Blues badly miss the Croatian's goals and Moyes claims they need him back scoring if they are going to have a successful end to the season.
He has seen signs that Jelavic is getting back to his free-scoring best and is confident he will soon start hitting the back of the net again.
"All forwards go through periods like this in their careers and all the good ones will tell you that it happens," said the Everton boss.
"It looks like he's getting closer and he's missed one or two recently.
"Because of that, it gives me hope and I believe he will score and get more goals.
"Everybody is supporting him and we know how important he is.
"The key to us being successful will be if Nicky can come up with the goals between now and the end of the season."
Moyes also revealed that Tim Howard is set to miss tomorrow's game against Reading with a back injury, although Marouane Fellaini could shake off his knee problem to play.
David Moyes knows from Everton's shock defeat at Reading that they cannot take three points for granted against them tomorrow at Goodison Park.
Reading are showing some fight after looking dead and buried at Christmas and Moyes is wary of the threat Brian McDermott's side pose from set-pieces.
"Like all the Premier League teams, everybody poses a threat," the Everton boss told evertontv.
"They have been able to get people behind the ball, but they have scored a lot of goals this year as well. They have got a lot of goals from set-pieces and we will have to be mindful of it.
"As I've said many times, games in the Premier League are close encounters. That's the way it has been.
"Brian McDermott has done a really good job. He got them up and he is having a right good go at keeping them in the Premier League.
"But we hope that we can get three points and try and keep our good league form going."
Moyes is impressed by Reading's supersub Adam Le Fondre and says he reminds him of Tim Cahill.
Le Fondre scored both Reading's goals in their win over Everton at the Madejski Stadium in November and Moyes said: "We've done it over the years with people like Tim Cahill, and they have got that with Adam Le Fondre.
"He doesn't start all the games for them, so we will have to wait and see what Brian does."
Everton boss David Moyes is ready to give Ross Barkley a chance to join his top-four push - after turning down loan approaches for the starlet.
Barkley is back at Goodison after spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United to keep him match-sharp for the Toffees and now Moyes plans to use him.
Midfield schemer Barkley is now the target for more Championship interest but Moyes has rejected three approaches as he looks to give his home-grown kid a chance back ‘home.’
Barkley is tipped for the top but Moyes has been keen to get him used to serious action at a lower level to get him ready for first team duty with the Blues - and now the time has come.
Akpan, 21, who joined the Royals from Crawley in January, spent 10 years in the Toffees academy, but his dad wishes that had been with the red side of the city instead.
He made only one substitute appearance for David Moyes’ side in a Europa League defeat against BATE Borisov in 2009, and is desperate to win on Merseyside to help relieve all the relegation fears.
“My dad is a Liverpool fan, but I’m staying clear of that subject,” said Akpan.
“I had a trial at Liverpool [the week after the one at Everton] and I didn’t end up going in the end.
My dad is a Liverpool fan, but I’m staying clear of that subject
My dad was really a bit disappointed, but he has always been supportive to me. I enjoyed my time at Everton, and it was hard leaving. I had been there for 10 years and that was all I knew as a kid growing up.
“It was for the better, though, as I learnt a lot in the lower leagues.
“It showed me the ugly side of the game, which I needed. A lot of young players who stay around the big clubs don’t get that. I’m now a stronger player and person.
“With that knockback, my attitude and the way I train has improved tenfold.”
Having seamlessly made the transition to the Premier League, Royals boss Brian McDermott praised Akpan for his immediate impact.
“I spoke to David Moyes about Hope and he thought he had potential. He’s 6ft1in, he can run, jump, pass and score – there’s not much more you need,” said McDermott.
Reading will be without Pavel Pogrebnyak, who is banned, and Jason Roberts is still sidelined with a hip injury.